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Majority against wind farms

A six month study has found that there is more than sufficient support to build a community wind farm in the New England, but not in Glen Innes.

New England Wind, the body responsible for the proposed site, will be recommending that the wind farm be built in the southern part of the New England.

New England Wind initiative coordinator Adam Blakester said while the Glen Innes area would be an ideal spot for a windfarm the community was not supportive of the idea.

“One of the main implications of the entire study, was that we’re recommending that the proposed site is in the southern part of the tablelands,” he said.

“There was still a fair bit of friction in the Glen Innes area towards the idea of wind farms.”

Mr Blakester said they would recommend the wind farm be built south of Guyra and could even be as far down as Walcha or Bendemeer.

“We are looking south of Guyra,” he said.

“It’s simply because the community in that area has been overwhelmingly supportive.”

Mr Blakester said more than 1000 community members from across the New England participated in the study.

“This conclusion reflects the views of well over 1300 community members and stakeholders,” he said.

“The message that comes through from the overwhelming majority of people and organisations was to ‘go for it’.

“They feel that times have changed and we now need to move beyond coal-fired electricity.”

The recommendation is for an eight turbine community wind farm, capable of producing electricity equivalent to 25,000 people (9000 dwellings), close to half the residential use of the New England Tablelands.

More than 100 landholders have expressed interest in hosting the turbines.

“To achieve this will require strong community backing to raise the necessary $30m, a bit more than twice the amount recently invested in small-scale solar and wind power in the New England,” Mr Blakester said.

“Further, to make sure that this truly is a wind farm for our community, we are recommending the majority of these funds will need to come from local people and organisations so they are the majority owner of the operation.

“The recommended legal structure to ensure this clear community underpinning is a ‘hybrid’ structure that blends together a cooperative, for strong community governance and leadership, which will be the majority owner of the wind farm operator, an unlisted public company which will have professional leadership, expertise and a minority ownership stake by larger investors as well as borrowings if required.

“A Quick Poll has now been launched to get comments and feedback on these two key recommendations.

“We need to check whether our recommendations accurately match the best way to ‘go for it’ from here, as well as make sure we still have the support of the community and stakeholders to proceed.”

The Quick Poll is online at http://tinyurl.com/WindPoll, or can be completed over the phone by contacting Elizabeth Gardiner on 6778 7249 or Adam Blakester on 6775 2501.

“Building a community wind farm is a very substantial first step to create a regional energy system, which was the strong desire expressed consistently by hundreds of stakeholders and community members,” Mr Blakester said.

“They would like to see a regional energy system governed by local community that addresses energy usage, efficiency, power generation and distribution right through to issues of energy security, storage, sustainability and education.”

Full details of preliminary findings and recommendations from the New England Wind Study can be found at www.starfishenterprises.net or by joining ‘New England Wind’ on FaceBook.